The 100 Greatest Songs (60-51)

60. “‘Round Midnight”  Written by Thelonious Monk, Bernie Hanighen, and Cootie Williams, Performed by Thelonious Monk (1944)

“‘Round Midnight’ is Thelonious Monk’s best-known jazz composition and carries the grand distinction of being the most-recorded jazz standard written by any jazz musician… ‘Round Midnight’ is best characterized as a ‘darkly beautiful’ ballad with an ‘after-hours’ feel that manages to sound fresh and original decade after decade. Its haunting overtones are nearly tangible. Bernie Hanighen wrote the poignant lyrics about a rocky love affair and the resulting sadness, ‘I’m feelin’ sad …my heart is still with you’ and longing, ‘Let our hearts take wings …Let the angels sing…'” –Jeremy Wilson, JazzStandards.com

59. “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry”  Written and Performed by Hank Williams (1949)

“Williams once told Ralph Gleason of the San Francisco Chronicle that ‘a song ain’t nothin’ in the world but a story just wrote with music to it.’ The events of Hank Williams’ death tell the story of his life, and one of his songs, ‘I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry,’ is part of that ‘story wrote with music to it.’ It was recorded in Cincinnati on the afternoon of August 30th, 1949. There is an electric guitar and steel guitar and fiddle, but for two minutes and 45 seconds, the song’s intensity comes simply from Hank Williams’ voice and his words.” –NPR 100

58. “Proud Mary”  Written by John Fogerty, Performed by Creedence Clearwater Revival / Ike & Tina Turner (1969)

“‘It was, like, the first really good song I ever wrote,’ Fogerty said of ‘Proud Mary,’ which began a run of five consecutive Top Three singles for CCR. He wrote the song, later unforgettably covered by Ike and Tina Turner, after his Army discharge: ‘I was fooling with the chord changes and started singing about the river. I realized, “Well, maybe if I make it about the boat.”‘” –Rolling Stone, “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time”

57. “Bridge Over Troubled Water”  Written by Paul Simon, Performed by Simon & Garfunkel (1970)

“‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ is the most celebrated song of celebrated songwriter Paul Simon’s career and the most successful song associated with the very successful 1960s duo Simon & Garfunkel. Simon, who wrote nearly all the team’s material, came up with it in the late ’60s while composing songs for their fifth album… Writing on the guitar in the key of G, Simon came up with a stately melody and [three] verses in which a narrator (who could be God, a parent, a lover, or a friend) pledges to help someone in adversity, to be ‘like a bridge over troubled water.'” –William Rulhmann, AllMusic.com

56. “I Only Have Eyes for You”  Written by Harry Warren and Al Dubin, Performed by the Flamingos (1934)

“Dick Powell introduced this song in the 1934 motion picture Dames, scored by Oscar-winning songwriters, composer Harry Warren and lyricist Al Dubin… According to Philip Furia in his book The Poets of Tin Pan Alley: A History of America’s Great Lyricists, ‘What lifts such a lyric above the usual run of film songs is Dubin’s ability to match Warren’s insistent melody with casually conversational phrases: “Are the stars out tonight? I don’t know if it’s cloudy or bright, ’cause I only have eyes for you.”‘” –Sandra Burlingame, JazzStandards.com

55. “Unchained Melody”  Written by Alex North and Hy Zaret, Performed by the Righteous Brothers (1955)

“This song first hit the charts in 1955, when three different versions of it landed in the Top 10. The Righteous Brothers picked up the torch in 1965, making it the B side to their single ‘Hung on You.’ When DJs began playing ‘Unchained Melody’ instead, [Phil] Spector decided the duo should put out only covers of pre-rock pop songs as its singles; their version of Sinatra’s ‘Ebb Tide’ also hit big.” –Rolling Stone, “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time”

54. “Dancing in the Street”  Written by William Stevenson, Marvin Gaye and Ivy Jo Hunter, Performed by Martha & the Vandellas (1964)

“The Motown ideal at its most utopian, 1964’s ‘Dancing in the Street’ evokes the euphoria of the civil rights movement by means of that most humble of pop clichés, the dance song. Martha Reeves’ anthemic vocals conjure up a world free of differences and disputes, replaced by a universal heartbeat everyone can move to — it’s a musical consciousness connecting Chicago, New York, and Washington, D.C. (and, of course, can’t forget the Motor City), with bone-rattling drums as its pulse.” –Jason Ankeny, AllMusic.com

53. “Take Five”  Written by Paul Desmond, Dave Brubeck and Iola Brubeck, Performed by the Dave Brubeck Quartet (1959)

“In 1959, jazz pianist Dave Brubeck topped the pop charts and shook up the notion of rhythm in jazz with an odd-metered song called ‘Take Five.’ Only trained musicians might understand exactly what gave the Paul Desmond-penned song its flow. It was all in the time signature: five beats to the measure, a departure from more traditional four-four time in jazz. It was cutting-edge and cool — a song millions would scoop up and savor.” –NPR Music

52. “The Tracks of My Tears”  Written by William “Smokey” Robinson, Jr., Warren Moore and Marvin Tarplin, Performed by the Miracles (1965)

“Legend had it that audiences would actually break into tears when Robinson and the Miracles sang ‘The Tracks of My Tears.’ … Pete Townshend was obsessed with the way Robinson put across the word ‘substitute’ (‘Although she may be cute/She’s just a substitute’). So obsessed, he said, ‘that I decided to celebrate the word with a song all its own’ — which is how he came to write the Who’s 1966 hit ‘Substitute.’ When Robinson cut ‘Tears,’ it was such a clear winner that even hard-to-please Motown founder Berry Gordy proclaimed it a masterpiece.” –Rolling Stone, “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time”

51. “Begin the Beguine”  Written by Cole Porter, Performed by Artie Shaw & His Orchestra (1935)

“June Knight first sang ‘Begin the Beguine’ and then danced to it with Charles Walters in the 1935 Cole Porter musical Jubilee. The song garnered little attention until Artie Shaw recorded Jerry Gray’s arrangement of the tune in 1938… In his book Can’t Help Singin’ Gerald Mast, paraphrasing lyrics from other Porter songs, says, ‘For Porter, the Latin surge of the song is another beat-beat-beat of a tom-tom; the pulsing of rhythmic sounds in the air again gets under the skin to enter the bloodstream as a pulse of emotion within. Porter evokes the sensation of the moment not by describing it in images but mirroring it in sounds.'” –Sandra Burlingame, JazzStandards.com

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